'Best thing I ate' is a series where we share the best things we have eaten around Singapore. Read more here.
WHAT: Hitsumabushi Eel Rice ($21)
WHERE: Yayoi, #B1-50, Meidi-ya Supermarket, Liang Court, 177 River Valley Road, Singapore 179030.
There was total silence for minutes when all four of us buried our faces in our individual lacquer box of Nagoya's signature eel rice.
It was that good.
Called Hitsumabushi, the steamed rice topped with grilled fish could be enjoyed three ways - as it is, mixed with chopped spring onion and grated wasabi, and finally, with the pouring of dashi stock which turns the dish into a savoury porridge.
That was at a famous Hitsumabushi chain-eatery in Nagoya some years ago.
Here in Singapore, it was finally given the attention it deserved when Man Man Japanese Unagi Restaurant opened last year, rightfully using live eels.
After it gained favour with foodies and Michelin inspectors rather quickly (with a listing in Bib Gourmand), well-known chef-restauranteur Teppei Yamashita opened another outlet at Duo Galleria in Beach Road very recently.
Probably riding on its popularity, chain restaurant Yayoi is offering it too - like a kamameshi served from a traditional Japanese metal rice pot.
Big enough for two smaller eaters, the set included the essential condiments, a house pickle, a cold tofu appetiser and a pot of piping hot bonito stock. If you're not sure how to tackle the dish, there's an instruction card on the tray to follow.
The unagi was probably not the fresh from the tank type that Man Man uses but the thick soft slices well-brushed with a delectable tare sauce and amply supported with thin strands of egg omelette, did conquer my tummy.
While the wasabi paste wasn't the freshly grated stuff you get at top sushi counters, that and the sansho powder helped enhance the taste sensations of the eel rice.
In fact the rice was so good I cleaned out the pot. And it's no ordinary rice by the way - it's the supposedly healthier Kinmemai varietal, which tasted sweet and sticky.
You don't want to waste any leftover of this rice - it's also reputedly the most expensive.
The writer paid for the meal reviewed.